“One of the predominant theories of child development stems from this concept that children are social learners, they learn a lot from interacting with their environment and by imitating their parents’ example. That’s why so often when kids are playing ‘make believe’ they will imitate real life basic scenarios they have encountered as they try and understand the world around them. What are some practical things you can do to model what a life of faith looks like, to your children?”
Yesterday I was asked to discuss this statement and a couple more topics for an upcoming C3 SYD Podcast. What a great topic. There were 3 guests with kids of all ages and so much rich wisdom was shared but 30 minutes is a really short time when you’re talking about such important things and naturally a lot was left unsaid.
I woke this morning in the gorgeous sunlight still buzzing with all the things yesterday had brought to the forefront of my mind and thought I’d keep the conversation going here!
What do you do?
How do you model your faith in Jesus to your kids? Share in the comments below. I’d love to hear more ideas.
Here are ten things we do to model what a life of faith looks life to our kids
- Love Each Other Deeply
It may sound obvious but we need to love above all else. Love our husband or wife and love our beautiful kids, love our parents and extended family, love our friends, love our work colleagues, love complete strangers! Faith always hangs on love. Faith is expressed through love, the love of God overflowing into our lives.
Living a life of faith means we live a life of deep love and when our kids feel and know and understand our love they get a window into the love of God. Love will always be unique to everybody but your kids are studying you, so it is important to model and talk about different ways to love in different situations to help them find unique ways they can love.
One thing we put in place a long time ago was giving to the organisation Compassion and our kids have been an integral part of this. As a family, we sponsor 20 children in need. Each of our children has 4 specific children whom they pray for every day and write letters to every school holidays to encourage them. As the relationships have developed it has helped our to see the reach of God’s love, the power of loving strangers and the power of prayer, even the prayer of a child.
2. Forgive Because You Are Forgiven
God expressed his love for us through his forgiveness in Jesus. To model our faith to our kids means we will do the same. Constantly showing grace, wiping the slate clean letting our love be new every morning is a great way to model grace. Also talking about God’s forgiveness. The Lord’s prayer says “Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” They go together.
Sometimes forgiveness doesn’t come easily but as we talk to our kids about how God has already forgiven and ask for God’s help to forgive our own unforgiveness, our forgiveness will flow. Kids can disappoint or hurt us, and we can disappoint or hurt them! In every situation practice forgiveness with each other. Your kids will absorb it. When we teach our kids to truly forgive they develop skills to remove bitterness from their lives. This is GOLD because bitterness, we know, when left unchecked is destructive, but forgiveness leaves no foothold for the devil.
3. Believe It Before You See It
“Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”Hebrews 11:1 (NIV)
We can model our faith to our kids by consistently believing for what we cannot see yet! We can have faith for them that they will learn to walk, learn to talk, learn to read, learn to swim, learn to ride a bike, have good manners at the table, cooperate with their siblings, control their tempers, make good choices. As we face each new challenge confident and assured, with faith and belief that they will overcome we are modelling the power of faith and our kids will take it on.
Focus on what can be done to move towards the end goal, not on the obstacles. Speak words that build their belief. Our words have creative power, when we say to a small child climbing up a hill, “Put your foot here on this rock, and grab this rock with your hand,” we show our belief that they can do it and give them the way at the same time. Later when they are older we might say, “Where can you put your foot? or Do you see a place for your hand?” and all the years of our confidence and assurance will give them the power to make an unhurried and clear headed choice with the belief that they will make it up the hill.
We talk the same way about our faith that God will come through in times when our own actions are not enough. We have the same confidence and assurance that God is powerful, and He will act. Whatever the outcome, our job is to move through with confidence and assurance that God loves us and is working for our good.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”Romans 8:28 (NIV)
4. Find Your Strength in the LORD
Where do you find your strength? Or a better question? What are you spending your energy on? If you could look down on yourself and view yourself from above (God’s perspective) what would you see? What are you doing? Where are you looking? What are you thinking about? Where is all your energy going? This is a great exercise to do when you’re stressed and drained and crying out for help and strength. Where is your strength being drained and is that necessary or helpful to you, or those around you?
Then go to the Lord for renewal. Sometimes its as simple as some clarity on where we are going wrong. Other times we need more, and God offers so much more! He offers JOY after hardship! The bible says the Joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah and his people were encouraged, after a really tough time, to be still, to eat and drink and to share what they had with those in need. When they did all this they began to rejoice greatly!
This is how we too will find our strength. By remembering who our ‘strength giving JOY’ comes from – the joy of the LORD – and by reverencing his holiness through our own stillness. In the quiet we will hear the whisper of the LORD who is patient with us. Then by eating and drinking in celebration – God knows we need physical food and he enhances its benefit when we eat it with gladness and in remembrance of him. The communion meal itself is tiny yet fortifying!
God also knows that his love needs to flow into, through and out of us to be truly effective, which is why he says, “send out potions”. What ever you have an abundance of – send out portions! God will multiply it so you can rejoice greatly! Also be willing and rejoice when people share, God’s abundance to them, with you because God intended it for you! Receive it directly from the LORD with thanks and rejoice greatly!
Then Nehemiah told them, “Go and eat what is rich, drink what is sweet, and send out portions to those who have nothing prepared, since today is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” And the Levites calmed all the people, saying, “Be still, since today is holy. Do not grieve.” Then all the people began to eat and drink, to send out portions, and to rejoice greatly, because they understood the words that had been made known to them.…Nehemiah 8:10-11
5. Do Not Exasperate Your Kids
This is a command given especially to Fathers in Ephesians 6:4. Sometimes it is translated do not ‘provoke your kids to anger’. This is a word for dads but it is also for mums because we are a team! We are also both responsible for the behaviour of our children and this is a command that flows down also to the way we teach brothers and sisters (who are encouraged to live in unity Psalm 133:1) to get along.
Stereotypically, men instinctively challenge each other so they can assert their dominance. It can be tempting to tease your kids or challenge them unfairly. However, when a father has children, God asks specifically that he put all that aside and train them in the instruction of the LORD which is sometimes counter intuitive. Instructing our kids in the LORD is more than teaching them the bible or taking them to church, it is being filled with the fruit of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control – and passing that on.
It doesn’t mean you can’t have fun or expect excellence from your kids. It doesn’t mean you can’t challenge them at all. It means your motivation comes from an overflow of love, not from a thoughtless or selfish place. It means you check yourself and you apologise if you slip up.
6. Find Your Identity and Security in Christ
Where do you find your identity? Who are you?
You might say I’m an artist or a teacher or I’m studying or I’m a mum or I vote this way, you might say I’m an Australian or I’m an snow skiier or an avid reader but that is not what God says about you. He says, ‘You are my child’ you are ‘chosen’. As a ‘Christian’ your identity is “Christ” not your circumstances or what you do.
So, how do you take hold of this identity?
Through humility. When we humble ourselves like a child we see ourselves as small and our Father in heaven as enormously powerful. We are like children riding on their parent’s shoulders – Secure in the knowledge that the one who carries us is strong and can lift us up higher than we could ever lift ourselves! We are secure in the LOVE and POWER of God, we are content (thrilled even) to be his child.
Our security also comes from a healthy fear of the Lord – we know with every fibre of our being that nothing else is as powerful as He is. God is definitely a little bit scary – but how good is it to have Him on our side! ‘The God of all creation loves and believes in ME!’ This belief and our humility before it underlines all of our actions and conversations with our kids, it gives us confidence even when we don’t know the answer or can’t help our kids. God can.
When we see ourselves this way we begin to Champion the things of God over and above our hobbies or lifestyle or culture and this becomes what is familiar to our children.
7. Pray Continually
Pray – Thank God for everything, Forgive others, Ask for others, Ask for yourself. Pray just because God loves you and wants to be with you. If you’re stuck for words, don’t stress. You don’t have to say much, your spirit does all the talking. There will be times when you can’t stop the flow of words and other times when you just sit still together and soak up the view. Pray out of reverence for the Lord, honour him with your prayers and your time. Pray with thanksgiving because God promises you peace when you do. Pray in every situation, about every circumstance. Pray in faith, believing God CAN.
Your body is the temple of God – you don’t have to go anywhere or change anything to be able to pray. You can pray at a rock concert or surrounded by screaming children, you can pray in the woods or when you are talking to someone else at a party and you can pray in the quiet of the middle of the night when you wake suddenly and everything is peaceful.
Get into the habit of waking thanking God and going to sleep thanking God, it will become very natural to pray with your kids as things come up because your spirit is already in a conversation with the Holy Spirit.
8. ‘Hear by’ the Word of God
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.Romans 10:17
To build our faith we are encouraged in the book of Romans to “hear by” the word of God. The word of God is the way we hear God and make sense of the world around us. To understand the world this way we must know the word of God. Then we must hear what God is saying.
Hearing is more than listening, it is more than reading. We can listen without hearing. We can read without comprehending. To hear what God is saying to us we need God himself. We need to ask God to read it with us. Whenever I read aloud to my kids they tell me they understand it so much better because I add expression and ‘do the voices.’ Reading the bible with God is better than that. The words come alive. They seep into your very bones.
How do we do this? We pray and humbly ask God to speak through his word to us and to let us understand, remember and put it into practice. Then once we have the word of God in us we begin to ‘hear’ by faith. Everything in the world makes sense because God has already spoken about it.
Model reading the word of God and read the word to kids (illustrated kids bibles, memory verses and even small chunks of scripture itself are great ways to read every day with kids). This teaches even our very young kids to ‘hear by’ it. It becomes their filter for all the craziness. It gives them confidence and assurance in a very unstable world.
9. Sing and Make Music to the LORD
You don’t have to be good at music for music to be good for you. Worship music has always been played in temples and churches as a way of rejoicing that God is near! God’s Anthem is ‘ Rejoice’ so it fits that he encourages uplifting and joyful songs! Songs were always and still are ways to remember huge chunks of text. Think back to your pre school days, you probably can’t remember the school or the teacher or the kids or the activities but I’ll bet you can remember the words to Incy Wincy Spider!
Songs will help you to remember verses and chunks of scripture and often add meaning to them simply through the chords being played. We often play kids worship music in the car and Colin Buchanan has been a huge and hilarious favourite. Worship songs are a way of matching your vibration to God’s vibration – that’s why they bring us peace. Songs also get rid of distractions and help us focus because they use a different part of our brain to our thoughts.
Model your faith by your music choices. We’ve played worship music a lot, especially at times when there was little ‘peace’ in the house, due to the ages of the children. One day, I was very frustrated after a difficult 10 minutes of convincing certain ones to actually get in the car, and my beautiful, thoughtful son in the passenger seat said. “Mum, I’ll turn the worship music on for you. I think you need it.” Then he sat quietly and let me calm down while the noise in the back subsided.
10. Be a ‘Regular’, Serve at Church and Tithe.
This pandemic has impressed on us the value of being regular at church. It is the first time my husband and I have NOT been regular at church, (even during my husband’s sickness, I went to church and bible study every week.) However, in this latest lockdown of 4 months and counting, we have honestly collapsed in a heap and avoided ZOOM calls as much as possible. We have needed to recharge quietly.
Instead we have listened to replays or older podcast recordings quietly on our own and we have used the sudden freedom of the evenings to embrace family time and dive into scripture ourselves.
But our 2 older sons (14 & 15) have not missed a single week of YOUTH services and they have ‘taken’ our daughter (12), who will start Youth next year with them! They are so connected-in and love their leaders so much, they were excited to connect their sister in too. They are already talking about big issues with their leaders and have incredible role models.
Those three have had regular weekly church and seen us go off to, or run, small groups each week for their whole lives. The younger 2 children (9 & 6) on the other hand are now on their second year of irregular church attendance and no small groups, and they are not really interested to go to church because they don’t have strong relationships. 2 years is a very long time in a small child’s life, especially if they hadn’t quite felt comfortable yet.
This is why serving is so important because although we may not be regular to zoom but we are still serving and still tithing. The two younger kids see me writing ‘kids church scripts’ from home and I show them the replays of cartoons made from my scripts. We also talk about tithing all the time because the kids always tithe from their pocket money.
One tip I was given from a lady in my women’s connect group, was to start your kids off tithing and teach them how to save so they can see that the two go together. Our kids began with 4 homemade cardboard money boxes and $2.50 per week for one daily cleaning job (on top of making their bed etc) for example my 6 year old currently takes out the recycling 6 days a week for his $2.50.
1st box was ‘Tithing 10%’, 2nd box was ‘Home 50%’ (Some people call it ‘Wealthing’, we call it saving for their house! Sydney is a very expensive place to live!) 3rd box was ‘Spending 20%’ (for things like the canteen or things that they will consume quickly), 4th box was ‘Short Term Savings 20%’ (for things like lego sets they want to save up for and buy).
This system morphed into 3 boxes because they quickly became savers and didn’t really want to ‘spend’ very often. Now days they all have two bank accounts, one is ‘Home 50%’ the other is ‘Short term savings 20%’ and the 10 % tithe goes out automatically each week. Just this morning my daughter 12 made an ebay purchase for $54.65 using her Short Term Savings and when my eldest son began his first job this year it was very simple for him to keep the system and percentages in place or his new income.
So that’s 10 Practical Things You Can Do To Model What a Life of Faith Looks Like to Your Children. A lot I know! I hope you are greatly encouraged & I’ll put a link to the Podcast once it drops.
For more help for your family, and strengthening your marriage you may want to check out my e-book 7 Bible Hacks to Kidproof Your Marriage – All the Shortcuts a Wife Needs to Know! You can buy it using the link below.
God Bless and your kids today!
Lots of love,